Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 5 August 2008) . . Page.. 2886 ..
I also respond to the scrutiny of bills committee report and their comments relating to the amendments to the Legal Profession Act, which provide the disciplinary tribunal with powers to require witnesses to attend the tribunal to give evidence and issue arrest warrants if those witnesses fail to attend.
These powers are consistent with the powers provided in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Bill 2008. The scrutiny of bills committee has queried whether the proposal to empower a judicial member of a disciplinary tribunal to issue a warrant for the arrest of a person is compatible with the Human Rights Act 2004 or consistent with the separation of powers doctrine.
The powers of arrest in the JACS bill are necessary to ensure that witnesses vital to a hearing are compelled to attend the tribunal to avoid unnecessary delays and additional costs to parties. However, the powers are limited to ensure that there is a balance between the right to liberty and security of a person and the tribunal’s fundamental object of resiling matters brought before it as quickly as is consistent with achieving justice.
The first check on this power is that an order for the issue of a warrant may only be made by a presidential member whose independence is ensured because they may only be removed from office by way of judicial commission. Secondly, the warrant may only be issued where the tribunal has taken reasonable steps to contact the person and the issue of the warrant is in the interests of justice.
This step ensures that the presidential member will carefully consider and balance the competing rights in each particular case. Finally, there are stringent procedures for the police officers who execute the warrant, including that an officer must release the person if the officer reasonably believes that the person cannot be immediately brought before a presidential member, thus ensuring that a person subject to a warrant will not be detained for any longer than is necessary to bring the person to the tribunal to give the subpoenaed evidence.
These checks and balances ensure that the amendments are consistent with the Human Rights Act 2004. The power to issue the warrant is clearly not arbitrary as it may only be exercised where it is in the interests of justice, which I have clearly defined and, at most, will result in a person being detained for a short length of time. I thank the committee for its comments on that matter and I commend this bill to the Assembly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.
Bill agreed to.
Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2008
Debate resumed from 26 June 2008, on motion by Mr Barr:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.